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Moving into a place with a neglected yard? Doing a simple clean up can go a long way. Here’s some ideas to restore a neglected garden.
Patience will be key as you work. Slowly over time, you can uncover a garden’s hidden potential and sometimes even buried treasures.
If the garden has been neglected for a year or more, clearing out the obvious weeds will provide a better idea of the garden’s potential.
These suggestions can help with yards new to you or just shaggy gardens in a forgotten corner that you’d like to spruce up.
(As a side note about buried treasures….after cleanup of this area, we gained a push lawn mower, a large composter, several bamboo trellises, and a couple ceramic pots!)
Bonus of cleaning up this part of the neglected garden.
How to Restore a Neglected or Overgrown Garden
While some suggest ripping out everything or using chemicals to kill everything off, I am really suggesting to not do that.
Using an annihilation method means possibly losing flower bulbs, perennials or other special plants such as heirloom varieties that you may later have to replace.
By using what is there as a start also allows your garden to avoid that bare just-planted look.
Take photos of your “before” yard. You may think it is just too messy or overgrown, but do it anyway.
This way you can really see the progress of your garden restoration as time goes by.
Cleaning up the Yard is the First Step to Restore a Neglected Garden
Begin by simply cleaning up. Get rid of dead sticks and pile any rocks or loose bricks in a corner for now – you might just use them later in your landscape.
Start cleaning flower beds by getting rid of dead stems and leaves. Cut back any dead growth on shrubs (don’t bother trimming right now, just cut back dead stuff).
When it comes time for pruning shrubs or trees, here’s an article to show you how to do that.
Helpful Tools to Use When Restoring a Garden
Camera or excellent quality iphone for recording progress and remembering plant locations – really important for remembering where bulbs, etc are planted.
Gardening book with suggestions for easy maintenance plants for your region – even low maintenance yards require work. Go as low maintenance as you possibly can.
Work gloves for pulling bladed grasses and prickly weeds
Hoe, shovel and hand trowel
Paper, unlined or graph, to create garden plan and color scheme
You may want to invest in a computer program for landscape design. This way you can play around with possibilities and see what you really want.
Poison Ivy in the Garden
If the area is really overgrown, be aware of poison ivy vines. If you do have poison ivy, try to clear out the roots and as much of the vine as possible.
Remember that dropped seeds will probably mean new vines in future years. Here’s an article I wrote about making your own Poison Ivy Killer Recipe.
It’s all natural, so you may need to repeat spraying a couple of times. And of course, it works on all kinds of weeds, not just Poison Ivy.
But it’s always good to go with no chemicals! If you do use round-up, be careful not to drop any on the other plants.
Record Progress of the Garden Restoration
After pulling out the obvious weeds, step back and take a picture of what your garden bed looks like.
Having quality photos of each stage will help with the planning and also remind you of your hard earned progress.
This is a good stage to begin drawing a representation of your garden on paper to show shrubs, trees and any plants in your garden that you intend to keep.
You can also draw or write ideas for the next year, keeping in mind the colors that you want and your preferred plant height limits for each section.
If previously undecided, you can determine if you want a formal or informal garden at this time and plant to achieve the look you want.
Still, give yourself a couple of years to finish the garden for a more natural look.
Tips to Find Out What Will Grow in Your Garden
One way to determine your garden’s future costs little but requires some patience. After thoroughly weeding the garden, add a few plants to blend in any holes in the greenery.
Now, hold off on the garden design until the end of the growing season. Yes, seriously.
As the months go by, you will see what plants come up. As the seasons go by you can see which perennials bloom in spring, summer or fall. Keep notes of when any plants bloom.
By waiting to see what plants comes up, you will have a better idea of which seasonal plants need to be added for the next year.
Are there just a few blooms in spring but bursts of color in summer and fall?
Then plant bleeding hearts, irises, and daffodils which may help to usher in color much earlier in spring for future years.
And you never know – you may realize you don’t even need to add anything to your restored garden. Maybe it just needed a huge cleanup!
Ask the Neighborhood to Help With Your Garden
When possible, ask the former homeowners or long-term neighbors what types of plants they recall being in the garden.
This can be especially helpful in the winter and the spring when so many perennials and bulbs remain buried or nondescript.
You never know – this yard may have been the most beautiful on the street at one time. There may not need to be much done to restore a neglected garden here.
Having an idea of what is there can also offer guidance as to what complementary plants you should add or hint at the original color scheme.
Using one of these color charts can be a big help.
If you dig up bulbs or plants that you decide aren’t right for your garden, consider offering them to the neighbors.
Plant and seed trading benefits everyone involved plus establishes new friendships in the community.
Add Inexpensive Trees to Landscape Your Yard
Gardens can be accented by adding trees to the yard. Depending upon the area, redbuds, dogwoods, crape myrtles and mimosas add bursts of blooms for a few weeks each year.
Read this article about creating visual interest in your yard.
There are lots of different recommendations for specific trees and shrubs that should work for you.
Be aware of the shade canopy of each to help you choose how close to plant these to your garden and also research which trees will work well in your area.
Noting which already decorate your neighborhood will also give you the option of asking neighbors for free seedlings from their established trees.
Before planting a tree or digging any large hole, call for utility locations to avoid puncturing gas lines or encouraging tree roots to penetrate sewer lines.
This extra step can save you substantial fees or repairs in the future.
Gardens add beauty to your property and well-planned shifts each year can help an unsightly garden become a well-nurtured symbol of the pride that you take in your home.
Beautiful landscaping can easily add thousands of dollars of value to your property.
More Gardening information to help you restore an overgrown garden
Want to put in a walkway? Take a look at how to create a gravel path in your yard.
Making a new flower bed doesn’t have to be difficult – here’s how we made a flower bed filled with perennial flowers and shrubs.
Here’s just how to go about creating year round interest in your yard, using trees and shrubs.
Need a hedge? Grow a hedge for free, using these step by step instructions!
Here are the Perfect Perennials to plant in the shade – low maintenance too
What you need to know about pruning shrubs and trees
Want to plant flower bulbs? Here’s how to plant Fall bulbs that will bloom in Spring